For Valentine’s Day this year, take a step back in time to 1885 and catch the incredible show, Age of Arousal, by Linda Griffiths, currently playing at the Gladstone.
There is a lot going on this play. For starters, the script is absolutely brilliant. It is eloquent, provocative, beautifully and cleverly written with lots of humour and wit. The content itself delves into a variety of Victorian era issues. Inspired in part on The Odd Women by George Gissing, there are the 19th century sexual politics you would expect, (with battles still being fought today), challenged repressive morality and social norms, the glories of sexual awakening not to mention the dreams, aspirations and challenges of women of various ages. Griffiths has been absolutely genius in weaving it all together using a variety of narrative techniques, including the sharing of the characters’ inner thoughts with the audience.
The story revolves around five women and one man. Of the women, two are trailblazers in terms of the feminist movement, one at the sunset of her career (Mary) and the other her uptight, humourless lover/protégé (Rhoda) who struggles with her sexual politics and her own sexuality. The two run a school to teach women how to type. Rhoda bumps into a childhood acquaintance who has two sisters. The three of them, almost destitute after the death of their father, enter the school for secretaries, without any real desire to learn how to be a secretary. Two are repressed older single women (Alice and Virginia) while their younger sister (Monica) has embraced her sexuality. One man, Mary’s cousin, Everard, provides the humour and the anatomy to stir things up.
There are interesting twists in the plot to keep everyone (including the boys) entertained. The acting in this play, without exception, is superb. It is not the easiest of scripts, given the incredible but complex language, but the cast successfully makes the play flow effortlessly. Each actor captures the essence of her/his character and pulls it off with ease.
Even the set is fabulous as are the costumes, right down to the symbolic corset on uptight Rhoda.
Age of Arousal is a true theatrical treat that pleases the mind and eye, entertaining you from beginning to end.
It runs until February 22 at the Gladstone. www.thegladstone.ca
Eleanor Crowder, Mary Barfoot
Rachel Eugster, Alice Madden
Lisa Jeans, Rhoda Nunn
Anna Lewis, Monica Madden
Margo MacDonald, Virginia Madden
Tim Oberholzer, Everard Barfoot